Sidney Bechet with horn resized
Gwendolyn Bennett

 A 1-hour documentary by Joanne Burke





Paris Noir: African Americans in the City of Light is the most comprehensive and compelling documentary existing on the remarkable migration of pioneering African Americans

to France and the impact both cultures had on each other.


Weaving stories and themes from World War I, the Jazz Age of the 1920s up to the German occupation of WWII, Paris Noir is thought-provoking storytelling that resonates in today's social and political climate.

More than a historical documentary, Paris Noir reveals the beginning of worldwide assertion of African American culture.


Directed, written and edited by critically-acclaimed documentary filmmakers Joanne Burke and David Burke, Paris Noir  blends rare photographs and archival footage, exciting period music, and insightful commentary by leading scholars and experts. 



  • the much-decorated 369th Harlem Hellfighters Infantry Regiment and its sensational marching band that introduced jazz to France

  • the effervescent jazz world of 1920s Lower Montmartre

  • Josephine Baker who evolved from dancer into a decorated WWII French Resistance spy, and civil rights activist.

  • African-American artists showcased in prestigious art shows and galleries, unthinkable in the US.


But while the African Americans were basking in their freedom, Afro-French colonial subjects found France far from a paradise.

  •  the collaborations between Harlem Renaissance writers Langston Hughes and Claude McKay with the Martiniquan Nardal Sisters, Négritude Movement founders Aimé Cesaire and Léopold Senghor and other Diaspora writers.


A short epilogue features post-WWII expatriates Richard Wright, James Baldwin, Miles Davis, Sidney Bechet and concludes with reflections on the situation of African Americans and Afro-French people in the France today.


Looking to purchase for your Library, School or Organization?  Companion Book and Teacher's Guides available.

Click Here

Au rythme du jazzbeat de l’époque, le documentaire suit les traces des plus grands : Lt. James Reese Europe et sa joyeuse fanfare des 396e Hellfighters de Harlem, Josephine Baker, Bricktop et Sidney Bechet. Les auteurs Langston Hughes et Claude McKay sont également des figures clés à la fois pour ce qu’ils ont écrit sur la France et pour les liens qu’ils ont tissés avec les meilleurs écrivains des colonies françaises en Afrique et aux Caraïbes. Et pour compléter le tableau, le documentaire retrace les réussites et les difficultés des artistes du Montparnasse, au centre de la capitale mondiale de l’art de l’époque.


Alors que les années 20 et 30 ont été une période faste  pour les Afro-Américains à Paris, le film examine aussi l’exploitation et la  prise de conscience politiques des personnes de couleur originaires des quatre coins de l’empire.

Film Companion Book - A Museum-Quality 83-page Film Companion Book

As a stand-alone resource or comprehensive extension of the documentary, this invaluable book is filled with scores of high quality photographs and engaging text.

Added feature: it is enabled with the Blippar® augmented reality app allowing readers to relive small segments of the film and additional footage.


Includes recommended reading & media and an archives listing.


“..they were hanging onto every word of the film.  I knew when I [first] saw the film that it would resonate with our festival audience.


I enjoyed how the film captures the richness of the cultural contributions of Black artists, writers and musicians in Paris in the first half of the 20th century. 

It also elucidates the many factors contributing to the feeling of racial acceptance in Paris during that period.


Both are aspects of history which modern audiences are sadly unfamiliar [and which] reverberate today”

—   Director of the March on Washington Film Festival


Blue Lion Films is the New York-based production company of producer/director/editor Joanne Burke and producer/writer/cameraman David Burke.

Joanne Burke was a top documentary film editor for CBS, NBC, and PBS in New York for twenty years, editor also of feature films for Sidney Lumet, and co-editor of Gimme Shelter, the Maysles Brothers’ classic documentary about the Rolling Stones, as well as over 20 documentaries.

David Burke was a longtime writer/producer for CBS News 60 Minutes and other CBS and NBC programs. He is the author of several travel books. His Writers In Paris evolved into the highly praised David Burke's Writers in Paris Walking Tours, listed as one of Lonely Planet's Top Ten literary walks worldwide.

Since moving to Paris in 1986, the Burkes have produced, written and edited independent films together: an award-winning biopic on jazz genius Mary Lou Williams and several documentaries focussing on innovative women in developing countries.

Their African Americans in Paris series, a groundbreaking 2-DVD set of mini documentaries, chronicles the experiences of pioneering Black Americans. The series received the award of Best Director from the prestigious Berlin Black International Cinema Film Festival in 2015.

Phlyssa Koshland signed on as producer of the Paris Noir documentary after meeting the Burkes in 2002. Primarily a sculptor, she lent her artistic expertise to the development of the story line, artistic continuity, as well as fundraising. Phlyssa designed the Film Companion book.  


 Julia Browne created the first ever tours of Black Paris in 1994 while studying under Sorbonne Emeritus Professor Michel Fabre, founder of the Centre For African American Studies at the Sorbonne Nouvelle. Through her indepth and fascinating Walking The Spirit Tours of Black Paris & Beyond, customized itineraries and multimedia presentations, her expertise on Black Paris and French culture is highly sought after by educators, travelers of all ages, locals and travel professionals. Julia has worked as consultant and developer with Blue Lion Films since 2002.

The Blue Lion Films team hosts screenings of Paris Noir at private and public screenings in Europe, the U.S. Canada  and abroad. An award-winning broadcaster, Julia presents Paris Noir at events across North America. Contact us to invite us or to show the film at your educational, cultural or community event or film festival.

Blue Lion Films, Inc., 2016. No part of this work may be copied or reproduced without permission.

Contact:  Email:  Website:

Orders can be made on this site